There were convulsions in the persnickety world of Star Wars fandom when the Walt Disney Co. bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion (with a “b”, that’s no typo), a purchase approved by Darth Vader himself on Twitter (“When I left you I was but the learner, now I am the Mouseketeer,” Himself wrote in under 140 characters). The George Lucas sellout, complained the horrified, left purists shaking in their boots over Disney’s plans for a seventh Star Wars film. As if, somehow, the Star Wars saga had stood still for 25 years.
In fact, as faithful readers of books know, those days when Star Wars novels began and ended with every character back at square one, never growing nor changing, ended many years ago.
Back in 1991, author Timothy Zahn’s Heir To The Empire extended the Star Wars universe into new and unexplored territory, all authorized and vetted by George Lucas or his minions. The current mythology has pushed our favourite characters (Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca) more than 40 years beyond the end of the civil war and the defeat of the evil Sith Lord, Emperor Palpatine, and into the time of the New Republic.
Every one of the dozens of Star Wars novels written is carefully parsed in manuscript form by a reader whose job it is to forward “references and resources I asked for,” notes author Michael P. Kube-McDowell, “and [who] then applied her extensive knowledge of the Star Wars universe to keep me from violating the historical record as often as I tried to.”
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. There are still lots of books set firmly in the Star Wars franchise we all know from the first six films. Take the Jedi Apprentice series, filed with a yellow dot.
Lucky episode 13, The Dangerous Rescue, by Jude Watson (2001), features the ongoing adventures of Obi Wan, a young padawan (apprentice) in the Jedi order. Obi Wan is undisciplined and doesn’t seem to pay much attention to what his minder tells him to do, but is clearly on his way to great things.
The Dangerous Rescue follows the continuing tale of the dastardly Jenna Zan Arbor, who uses science to attempt to analyze and control The Force – that is, she’s draining Jedi Knights of their blood and placing the midi-chlorians within under the microscope. This episode features a bounty hunter, germ warfare and, of course, betrayal. Plus light sabre swordplay.
As fans grow older, so do the books. After the death of his wife, as we all recall from the movies, the padawan Jedi Anakin Skywalker fell to the Dark Side. The Young Adult novel Dark Lord – The Rise Of Darth Vader, by James Lucen (2005), chronicles Anakin’s conversion into willing servant of Emperor Palpatine.
It’s the story of how the Jedi were murdered and how the few survivors attempt to cope, with Vader’s angst and acceptance of his ascension to the Dark Side slowly and parsimoniously sifted into the narrative until the final chapters of the book, where he comes into his own as a nasty dude.
The Lennoxville Library also has a handful of books that go beyond the universe as moviegoers know it.
Michael P. Kube-McDowell introduces us to Princess Leia Organa Solo, wife of you-know-who and president of the new Senate, and commander-in-chief of the New Republic’s defence forces. Star Wars Book I of the Black Fleet Crisis: Before The Storm (1996), takes place 16 years after the film Star Wars: A New Hope. Luke Skywalker is now a Jedi Master himself, seeking solitude, while his sister Leia is coping with the burdens of winning an internecine conflict. There’s bureaucracy, politics, negotiating with new races, rebuilding an interstellar democracy.
There’s also much suspicion, especially when new ships of war are built. Some question why a peaceable empire would need such ships: “The Fifth Fleet is a weapon of conquest and tyranny,” announces the ambassador for an out-of-the-way cluster of planets. “And once a weapon is forged, it tantalizes and tempts, and transfixes, until someone finds a reason to use it.”
Meanwhile, it looks like Luke Skywalker is going off on a personal (mis)adventure of his own just as the New Republic teeters on the edge of a new conflict – and new massacres.
The novel Balance Point, by Kathy Tyers (2001) is part of the New Jedi Order series, and takes place 25 years after Star Wars: A New Hope.
Leia Organa’s marriage to Han Solo is on the skids, their three Jedi children are up to their eyeballs in trouble, and the New Republic is defending itself in yet another galactic war, this time against an enemy the good guys can’t predict. The 100-strong members of the New Jedi Order feel a great nothingness where their enemy should be; perhaps they’ve been abandoned by the Force after all this time?
Oh, and Luke Skywalker got hitched.
Importantly for readers, Balance Point includes a handy flowchart to help you situate the dozens of novels in the timeline.
All but the Jedi Apprentice series are filed in the Young Adult section.
May the Force be with you!
– Eleanor Brown, January 25, 2013